JPO in SLC: The Surreal Shmup That Deserves a Full Arcade Release
There’s a new shoot-em-up on a “location test” of sorts at the Game Grid Arcade in West Valley City, Utah. It’s not Skycurser or Raiden or anything like that (though you can find those games there). No, this new game is incredibly obscure—and much more surreal.
Created by David Payne of Rest 30 Records: Video Game Division using the Steam-based Shoot ‘Em Up Kit, this new shmup is a bizarre documentary art game type-thing known as JPO in SLC (otherwise known as Joshua Payne Orchestra in Salt Lake City, for those of us who don’t live in the local Utah area). Beyond that, it’s a little hard to explain. I guess, in a word, it’s just plain bonkers.
If none of that made even a lick of sense to you, you’re not alone. I have absolutely no idea what any of that mind-trippy, seizure-inducing, bombastic polar bear action was supposed to represent. I certainly couldn’t tell you what any of that had to do with the titular Joshua Payne Orchestra, either. All I know is that I love it.
JPO in SLC, like I said, makes no sense to me, but that’s exactly what makes it so awesome. There are very few games in the modern arcade industry that are any bit as unique as this; it’s been so long since we've seen this kind of creativity. Perhaps there was CarnEvil in 1998, or maybe a few other games here and there. But JPO in SLC is special. There’s hardly anything like this—even on home consoles. Because it's so surreal, so stupidly insane, I couldn’t help but instantly love it. And with the neat screen effect, and JPO in SLC is an arcade shoot-em-up I would spend good money on.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like Payne plans to take the game outside of the local area and conventions anytime soon. Though it’s fully playable and looks like tons of fun, JPO in SLC is much more of an art project/documentary than it is an actual game. As Adam Pratt says in the video, the game is meant to chronicle the journey of the Joshua Payne Orchestra during their brief four-year (2009 to 2013) tenure. It’s certainly not intended for a broad audience. And though JPO in SLC is totally coin-operated, it’s not meant to stay at the Game Grid Arcade for too long.
And of course, there are a few issues beyond that. Payne couldn’t get everything working perfectly in Shoot ‘Em Up Kit, so there’s no gameplay footage in the attract mode, and apparently players can’t enter their initials on the high score screen.
Still, there’s something wildly appealing about the sheer insanity of JPO in SLC. Watching gameplay was almost mesmerizing. And despite all odds, I so dearly hope this game receives a full arcade release. Oh, how I hope it does.
Though I totally dig the new arcade games coming out of the three major development studios (Raw Thrills, Namco, and SEGA), I sometimes wish their output were a little more “flavorful,” so to speak. Their games are polished and fun, but there’s nothing too crazy out there. We haven’t seen the CarnEvil of our generation, ya know? (I apologize for being a major CarnEvil fanboy.)
Indie arcade developers have been at least somewhat poised to change this. We've seen very cool stuff like Killer Queen, Skycurser, and Rashlander, after all. But when you really think about it, have we seen anything totally off-the-walls? Have we seen anything like gosh danged JPO in SLC?
There’s something fun about original, compelling IPs, and JPO in SLC takes the cake. It’s wild, stunning, and overwhelming in the best way, like Smash TV or Total Carnage From a gameplay perspective, it’s no more unique than Skycurser. But there’s just something there that makes it different—something deeply alluring.
Maybe it’s a longshot, but I’d love to see JPO in SLC receive a full arcade release. I want to be able to go to an arcade and support this game with my quarters. It’s that danged cool, people. From the looks of it, it’d probably be a fairly inexpensive game. And while it may be very Utah-centric, I think the surrealism of it all will be enough to draw in players from all corners of America.
So, how about it? Do you agree that JPO in SLC needs to see the light of day outside of a short tenure in the Game Grid Arcade? Do you even understand how badly I want to play this stupid-crazy game? If you want to get your hands on some laser polar bear action, comment below. Heck, maybe even send this article to David Payne. I know I’d sure love to experience the full story of the Joshua Payne Orchestra in all its brain-melting glory.
Everybody cross your danged fingers. Do it or I don’t love you anymore.
Just kidding, boys and girls. We’re still friends. Also, I apologize for only writing short articles lately. I've been busy, yet I still refuse to let my blog die.
Before I let you go, here's official footage of the full game and a link to the official YouTube channel. Enjoy.